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Climate: Bonn talks dominated by finance, global stocktake

June 15, 2023

After climate talks in Bonn were overshadowed by finance and equity, negotiators are looking ahead to the crucial COP28 summit in Dubai. Key to those talks will be the world's first global stocktake.

A man walks on cracked and dried up soil in southern Iraq
Developing countries are often forced to choose between investing in climate solutions or feeding peopleImage: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP

Climate negotiators have wrapped up 10 days of talks in Bonn, Germany, with finance for mitigation and adaptation efforts proving a stubborn stumbling block.

"It has been deeply disappointing, because we wanted the Bonn climate talks to set the tone for the Dubai climate conference, and we really cannot afford any further delay," Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, told DW from the sidelines of the conference.

Earlier, Martin Kaiser, head of Greenpeace Germany, told the German Press Agency the negotiations had been overshadowed by geopolitics — the war in Ukraine and tensions between the US and China. "The hoped-for push by progressive countries did not materialize," he said. 

While acknowledging that there had been "a lot of work" on the technical side in Bonn, Singh said the thorny questions about who is responsible for planet-warming emissions — both now and in the past — and who is going finance efforts to reverse course and adapt to the increasingly destructive impacts of climate change continue to dominate.

Funding the fight against climate change

"Developing countries have to make a choice," he told DW, pointing out that they are working with limited resources. "Every day, they have to choose between feeding people on the ground or investing in solar technologies."

Speaking with reporters earlier, he stressed that "finance and equity are going to determine whether we put the world on the right track or it's going to be a doomsday scenario."

The Bonn conference was the last major chance for delegates to meet ahead of COP28, the crucial year-end summit in Dubai. COP28 will see the world's first global stocktake, a review of the world's collective progress made toward meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement of limiting global heating. The world needs to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades to keep the average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

People wade through knee-deep flood waters
Pakistan, which experienced devastating floods last year, is among countries calling for wealthier states to pay compensation for the impacts of the climate crisisImage: Zahid Hussain/AP/dpa/picture alliance

More importantly, the audit — set to take place every five years — will highlight where that progress is lacking. "The success of the global stocktake will ultimately determine the success of COP28," writes UN climate chief Simon Stiell on the UNFCCC site. "It is the defining moment of this year, this COP and — as one of the only two stocktaking moments in this decisive decade of climate action — ultimately pivotal to whether or not we meet our 2030 goals."

How does the global stocktake work?

The idea for the global stocktake came out of the 2015 deal, with countries agreeing to regularly assess how the world was slashing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the impacts of a changing world and securing the necessary funds to address the climate crisis. 

"The global stocktake is an ambition exercise. It's an accountability exercise. It's an acceleration exercise," said Stiell. "It's an exercise that is intended to make sure every Party is holding up their end of the bargain, knows where they need to go next and how rapidly they need to move to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement."

The first part of the process, which began back in 2021 and ended earlier this year, involved collecting the latest data on emissions, adaptation efforts and countries' nationally determined contributions, their national climate action plans.

The second phase, the technical assessment, just concluded in Bonn and gave experts and climate representatives the chance to evaluate the data ahead of political discussions at COP28. 

A final summary report is expected in September, showing how far off the world is from reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and providing advice on what needs to change.

Singh said most international agreements don't have a process like the global stocktake, which allows a periodic review and a chance to develop a forward-looking plan.

"It's unique, a really important process. But we need to make sure it is meaningful, and not just a technical process which will not lead to ambitious action," he said.

Stocktake an 'opportunity to chart a better course'

"It's not just an inventory, it's not just an assessment," Cecilia Kinuthia-Njenga of the UNFCCC told reporters in May. "It's offering that opportunity to chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action."

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David Waskow, of the US-based think tank World Resources Institute, said ahead of the Bonn conference that the global stocktake is expected to focus on four key sectors — energy transition, food systems, transport and sustainable consumption — and help shape how countries update their nationally determined contributions, which they must do by 2025. 

"The stocktake was quite explicitly designed to inform the next round of NDCs," he said. "This is really an opportunity to show how the implementation will happen, how the transformation will happen."

Speaking at a WRI event in May, Helen Mountford, president and CEO of the nonprofit ClimateWorks Foundation, said the stocktake "will be an incredibly critical inflection point in our journey to make the most of this decisive decade and secure a truly liveable future."

"The timing is really important," Singh told DW. "We've heard from scientists, we know what is needed. Now what we need is a political direction. And that's what the world leaders have to deliver."

Update, June 15, 2023: This article has been updated with an interview with Harjeet Singh of Climate Action Network International.

Edited by: Tamsin Walker

Martin Kuebler Senior editor and reporter living in Brussels, with a focus on environmental issues